The Cyber Threat

Malware ImageCyberspace lies at the heart of modern society; it impacts our personal lives, our businesses and our essential services. Cyber security embraces both the public and the private sector and spans a broad range of issues related to national security, whether through terrorism, crime or industrial espionage. E-crime, or cyber crime, whether relating to theft, hacking or denial of service to vital systems, has become a fact of life. The risk of industrial cyber espionage, in which one company makes active attacks on another, through cyberspace, to acquire high value information is also very real.

IT security and network security includes knowing the cyber threats you face, making effective trade-offs, and integrating security throughout the software development life cycle. One of the most effective ways to deal with the cyber threat is to leverage proven principles, patterns, and practices. The key is to know which principles, patterns, and practices are effective for your particular situation. Techniques such as threat modelling and security inspections can you help you shape your software to meet your specific security objectives.

What Security Means

What Do We Mean by Security?
Cyber SecuritySecurity is fundamentally about protecting assets. Assets may be tangible items, such as operations or your customer database — or they may be less tangible, such as your company’s reputation.
It is important to recognize that cyber security is a path, not a destination. As you analyze your infrastructure and applications, you identify potential threats and understand that each threat presents a degree of risk. Security is about risk management and implementing effective countermeasures. One of the most important concepts in security is that effective security is a combination of people, process, and technology.


The Foundations of Security

IT Infrastructure AssessmentSecurity relies on the following elements:

Authentication. Authentication addresses the question: who are you? It is the process of uniquely identifying the clients of your applications and services. These might be end users, other services, processes, or computers. In security parlance, authenticated clients are referred to as principals.

Authorization. Authorization addresses the question: what can you do? It is the process that governs the resources and operations that the authenticated client is permitted to access. Resources include files, databases, tables, rows, and so on, together with system-level resources such as registry keys and configuration data. Operations include performing transactions such as purchasing a product, transferring money from one account to another, or increasing a customer’s credit rating.

Auditing. Effective auditing and logging is the key to non-repudiation. Non-repudiation guarantees that a user cannot deny performing an operation or initiating a transaction. For example, in an e-commerce system, non-repudiation mechanisms are required to make sure that a consumer cannot deny ordering 100 copies of a particular book.

Confidentiality. Confidentiality, also referred to as privacy, is the process of making sure that data remains private and confidential, and that it cannot be viewed by unauthorized users or eavesdroppers who monitor the flow of traffic across a network. Encryption is frequently used to enforce confidentiality. Access control lists (ACLs) are another means of enforcing confidentiality.

Integrity is the guarantee that data is protected from accidental or deliberate (malicious) modification. Like privacy, integrity is a key concern, particularly for data passed across networks. Integrity for data in transit is typically provided by using hashing techniques and message authentication codes.

Availability. From a security perspective, availability means that systems remain available for legitimate users. The goal for many attackers with denial of service (DoS) attacks is to crash an application or to make sure that the application is sufficiently overwhelmed so that other users cannot access it.


Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Attacks

Internet identity theft When thinking about cyber security, it is helpful to think in terms of assets, threats, vulnerabilities, and attacks.

Asset. An asset is something related to your application that is worth protecting. Sensitive data, intellectual property, and access to critical operations are all assets. For example, user credit card numbers are an asset worth protecting in your application.

Threat. A cyber threat is any potential occurrence, malicious or otherwise, that could harm an asset. In other words, a threat is any bad thing that can happen to your assets.

Vulnerability. A vulnerability is a weakness that makes a threat possible. This may be because of poor design, configuration mistakes, or inappropriate and insecure coding techniques. Weak input validation is an example of an application layer vulnerability, which can result in input attacks.

Attack. An attack is an action that exploits vulnerability or enacts a threat. Examples of attacks include sending malicious input to an application, or flooding a network in an attempt to deny service.

To summarize, a cyber threat is a potential event that can adversely affect an asset, whereas a successful attack exploits vulnerabilities in your system.